After much anticipation, the Reclaiming our Future: The Black Radical Tradition in Our Time conference took place at Temple University, the Church of the Advocate and Mother Bethel AME. North Philadelphia has been host to other radical conferences in the past, including the Black Panther Party’s People’s Constitutional Convention. This gathering aimed to carry on that legacy.
The conference was organized by the newly-formed Black Radical Organizing Collective, based in Philadelphia with members also in New York, New Jersey and Chicago. The Party for Socialism and Liberation was a sponsor of the conference, and several PSL members, including Kashara White and Vice-Presidential candidate Eugene Puryear, were part of the program.
“It’s winter in America,” the call to action read, “Our nation is on the edge of socio-economic collapse and is consumed by moral decadence and confusion. From inside a decaying hegemonic power we look out into a world ravaged by full-spectrum imperial war, capitalist economic meltdown and unspeakable human suffering in places like Haiti, Syria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Colombia and Greece; environmental devastation threatens life as we know it.”
Temple University, despite technically being a public institution, has been a driver of gentrification and violence against their own students and members of the community surrounding the university. The fact that the conference was being held there signaled the people’s determination to transform the university and put it at the service of the people.
The event featured several “heavyweights” in the Black Radical Tradition, and was attended by 1,500 people of all ages and nationalities. Participants shared analysis about the world situation and how to combat the state. The conference denounced capitalism and framed it as the main source of all global injustice we see taking place in the world today.
The conference stood out for its ideological clarity, naming the system as well as the way forward. The opening panel was titled “The Moral Bankruptcy of Capitalism: The Black Radical Tradition as Socialist Alternative.”
All of the most notable speakers, such as Cornel West, Angela Davis, Jeremiah Wright, Pam Africa and Dr. Anthony Monteiro took stances against capitalism. During the panel on “War, Peace and Global Justice”, Executive Editor for the Black Agenda Report, Glen Ford condemned imperialism by stating, “What is at stake here is the very existence of human life on earth.” Ford also stated that “Communist parties and socialist parties are at the core of the Black Radical Tradition.”
At a formative stage in the renewed movement for Black liberation, this conference helped shape a radical platform: demanding the disarming of police, framing gentrification as a crime of capitalism, and presenting socialism at the economic alternative that is in the best interest of the poor and working class.
There is a lot at stake this year. The Democrats and Republicans, who are interestingly holding national conventions in the cities where the two national Black Lives Matter conferences took place, are attempting to monopolize political life with their electoral campaigns. The Black Radical Tradition conference kept the focus on the struggle in the streets for Black liberation and the eventual liberation of all humanity. The hundreds of activists who attended refuse to be co-opted, and will continue to fight for the well-being and freedom of the people.